Mobile Phones are in the news again. The police have launched a crackdown. The unmarked lorry you are overtaking may well be manned by officers who are specifically on the lookout for people using their mobiles and surely everyone knows now that a fine and 6 points is the penalty.
But there is so much confusion still out there as to what exactly the rules are. What if it’s your SatNav? What if its in a cradle? What if you’re parked up? What about a tablet that cannot make calls?
Starting with the simple stuff, if you are holding your phone and making a call then you are guilty. If you are holding the phone and sending text messages, or emailing, or snapchatting or instagramming you are guilty. (This also goes for any other apps that I am too old to know about.)
Even if you are just scrolling through checking the latest posts on FaceBook or reading emails or texts, this will still be taken as using the phone. It does not appear that you need to be using any interactive function to be deemed to be using it, so no games and no taking selfies.
Equally, looking at the phone in SatNav mode will also be deemed to be using the phone.
By the way, it doesn’t actually have to be a phone. The offence can be committed with ‘any hand-held device, other than a two-way radio, which performs an interactive communication function by transmitting and receiving data.’ So that’ll be tablets as well.
If you are supervising a learner, all of these rules apply to you too.
Being stopped in traffic is no defence. If you absolutely, positively have to take or make a call, pull over, park, put your hand brake on and switch the engine off.
There are two defences. Firstly, you may ring 112 or 999. Secondly, if you are acting in response to genuine emergency and it is unsafe for you to stop driving in order to make the call, you will not be guilty.
Also, there has to be some sense in which you are ‘using’ the device. Moving it because it is uncomfortable in your pocket cannot really be said to be ‘using’ the device
So then, what about cradles?
A mobile telephone or other device is to be treated as hand-held if it is, or must be, held at some point during the course of making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive function.
So then, as long as you do not need to hold the phone at all, there will be a defence. (Please don’t think that resting it on your lap throughout the journey so that you never need to actually hold it to make or receive a call is a way round this regulation. The defence has not been tried in a court so far, but I will confident to the point of certainty that it will fail if ever anyone does try it.)
This is not the end of the matter though. Firstly, where is your cradle? If it is attached to the windscreen, that can be an entirely different offence. The advice here is to invest in a cradle that will attach to your dashboard and will not cause any obstruction in your view.
Secondly, whilst touching one button will probably not cause a difficulty, dialling a whole number, or typing a text, or resetting a new post code is very likely to take away far more of your attention than the police are willing to allow. It is an offence to drive in a position that does not give proper control or a full view of the traffic ahead. Whilst it doesn’t attract the 6 points that using a hand-held phone does, it still comes with 3.
Best advice? If your car comes with SatNav, use it. Put the phone in the boot. It’s safer all round, and not just for your driving licence. Of course, if the police have already stopped you and you are facing a court hearing, the best advice is to contact us as soon as possible.